She married the greatest aristocratic showman of our time – and proved she could emulate his exuberance, and in no more dazzling way than when she danced the night away in a white rhinestone-studded jumpsuit and rubbed rhinestones with Elvis look-alikes .
But when the pace got too much for Fiona, the second wife of the late Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, she took refuge in a flat far from Palace House, her husband’s ancestral home, and his 8,500-acre estate – which is what she jokingly called it “…” brought in “the only woman who goes to London to get away from it all”.
There she died peacefully on Sunday at the age of 79 after a short illness.
“She was surrounded by her immediate family,” a spokesman for the estate tells me, explaining that this included their son Jonathan and his wife Nathalie, as well as their daughter Akina and their stepchildren Mary and Ralph, who became the fourth to succeed his father Lord Montagu in 2015.
Born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), young Fiona was sent to Switzerland to finish her school before coming to the UK, where she met Edward Montagu while working as a film production assistant.
Not from the ghetto: Elvis fan Fiona danced the night away and rubbed rhinestones with the king’s doubles
Beau Suede Shoes: Fiona was the second wife of the colorful Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
They married in 1974, just months after Lord Montagu’s divorce from his first wife Belinda, whom he had married in 1958.
Four years before this first marriage, he had been sentenced to one year in prison for “consensual homosexual offences” with an RAF soldier.
The case became a notoriety that led to a change in the law decriminalizing homosexuality over the next decade.
Life with Lord Montagu at Palace House has never been conventional. Once, Fiona recalled walking into her bedroom to find a little girl sitting at my dressing table brushing her hair.
That’s when I decided that my bedroom should be off-limits to visitors.
A portrait showed the nobleman with his two wives, to whom he dedicated his memoirs together.
Cruisey: Fiona, left, with her husband Edward, Lord Beaulieu and a competition winner
Fiona became the first global ambassador for the Club of Budapest, an informal association campaigning for a more peaceful world with supporters ranging from the Dalai Lama to Basic Instinct star Sharon Stone. At home she was involved with the Countryside Education Trust.
“She brought light into every room she walked into,” executive director Jane Cooper tells me. “She was so good at inspiring people.”
Among them, as it turns out, “a millionaire from her circle of acquaintances”. When she “accidentally” met him one day on the beach, she immediately asked for a donation for the foundation and secured it.